AHS endorses water fluoridation in Calgary

CALGARY (CityNews) — Alberta Health Services (AHS) is picking a side when it comes to water fluoridation in the city.

The question will be on municipal ballots come Monday, and in a release, AHS says to vote yes.

Dr. Rafael Figueiredo, the Provincial Dental Public Health Officer and Dr. Nick Etches, the Acting Zone Lead Medical Officer of Health for the Calgary Zone put out a release indicating AHS’ support.

“AHS endorses community water fluoridation as a foundational public health measure to prevent tooth decay, improve oral health and reduce inequities within communities,” AHS said.


AHS also points to data collected since 2011, when Calgary stopped water fluoridation for the first time since 1991. Looking at data from Edmonton, where fluoridation continued, compared to that of Calgary, more cavities were found in the baby teeth of children in Calgary within three years, confirming that stopping the fluoridation of water has had a negative impact on children’s dental health.

Dr. Bruce Yaholnitsky is the former president of the Alberta Dental Association and College (ADA&C) and a practising periodontist, he says the evidence is clear; water fluoridation will help protect Calgarians.

“Studies have shown that it decreases the rate of tooth decay by up to 25 per cent in children and in adults,” Yaholnitsky said. “Comparing just Edmonton and Calgary, you can see there is a significant difference in the decay rate.”

Calgarians should know that there is already some fluoride in our water supply at levels of 0.1 to 0.4 parts per million (ppm). Health Canada recommends an optimal level of fluoride at 0.7 ppm, which is what the city will do should enough people vote for it. According to the ADA&C, that 0.7 ppm figure takes into account fluoride that people get from other sources like toothpaste or mouthwash.

Over 90 professional health organizations including Health Canada, the Canadian Public Health Association, the Canadian Dental Association, the Canadian Medical Association and the World Health Organization all recommend water fluoridation because it is scientifically proven to strengthen tooth enamel, prevent tooth decay, and generally make teeth healthier.

Aside from health benefits, AHS and the ADA&C also say fluoridation comes with social and economic benefits. AHS says water fluoridation will help protect the most vulnerable because tap water is accessible to 100 per cent of people connected to the municipal water supply, regardless of age, socioeconomic status, education, income, race or ethnicity. Cost-wise, Yaholnitsky says it’s relatively cheap when you think about how much the city would be spending per person.

“Thirty-million dollars over 20 years, $10 million initially, then about $1 million a year,” Yaholnitsky said. “If you take that $1 million a year, into our population of 1.6 million people, it’s between 60 and 70 cents per person, per year. You can’t get a coffee for that.”

Both AHS and the ADA&C agree that there is no evidence to say water fluoridation will cause any harmful side-effects, it’s environmentally friendly, and implementing it would mean communities that receive city water, including Strathmore, Chestermere, parts of the Tsuut’ina Nation, Airdrie and Spruce Meadows would gain the health benefits as well.

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